News Local

School board reaffirms desire for new school

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

Don't retrofit Park Street Collegiate Institute, says the Simcoe County District School Board.

In approving its capital plan Wednesday evening, school trustees voted to axe a staff recommendation suggesting to the Ministry of Education that an Orillia high school could be retrofitted instead of having a new school built.

"Anything less would have been compromising the integrity of the Orillia ARC (accommodation review committee)," Orillia trustee Debra Edwards said Thursday. "I'm just grateful we're not settling for second best."

Jodie Lloyd, trustee for Ramara, Severn and Tay townships, agrees the capital plan should reflect the board-approved motion and the 2009 ARC recommendation to construct a new school.

"The ARC recommendation was to build a new high school," Lloyd said.

"That's what the board approved. We have not changed that or modified that."

School board staff added high school "addition and renovation" to the capital plan following a ministry request, Lloyd said.

"The ministry is asking staff to do their due diligence, to look at whether a retrofit could be done instead of a rebuild," she said.

The ministry and board staff are examining options together, Lloyd said.

"It now rests in the hands of the ministry," she said. "The hope is, even with the challenging financial times we're having, that we will see the money for that school."

The proposed $32-million project would see Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute and Park Street merged into a new facility on the Park Street site - a way to address the problem of declining enrolment in Orillia.

If the ministry will accept a retrofit only, Lloyd would also accept it.

"If that is our only option, I would never turn it away," she said.

But it would have to be feasible and address all the issues.

"It needs to address accessibility, it needs to address programs and it needs to bring the building to current building-code standards," Lloyd said.

The board also approved its list of capital priorities Wednesday.

A new high school for Orillia remains at the top of the list.

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